From December 10th through 12th, 2008 the Latin American meeting of the Global Forum of Communitarian Mental Health was held in the city of Havana, Cuba. Dr. Benedetto Saraceno, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse of the WHO, participated in the forum. Delegates of several Latin American countries participated, and users of mental health services, their relatives and NGOs were involved in this subject; there was also ample Cuban participation. The inauguration was presided over by the Cuban Vice-minister of Health, Dr. Somarriba. He was accompanied by, among others, Dr. Lea Guido, Representative of PAHO/WHO in Cuba; Dr. Victor Aparicio, Subregional Adviser of Mental Health of PAHO/WHO; Dr. Carmen Borrego, Coordinator of the Operations Group of Mental Health and Addictions of Cuba (GOSMA); Dr. Miguel Valdes Mier, President of the Cuban Society of Psychiatry; Dr. Birgit Radtke of CBM (Christian Blind Mission), and Dr. Ángelo Barbato of the Worldwide Association of Psychosocial Rehabilitation.
During the meeting a tribute was held in honor of Dr. Guillermo Barrientos, who passed away in 2006. He was an expert in Cuban and Latin American psychiatry, and he made great contributions to the development of communitarian mental health in our continent. Members of the team that worked with him highlighted his remarkable personality, his commitment to the citizens and his exceptional professional career, including his work as temporary consultant to PAHO. The tribute was attended by companions, friends and family.The thematic axes of the Forum included:
During the activity, a series of recommendations to fortify the mental health care systems of the region was agreed upon. The agreement promoted the application of the lineaments within the 1990 Declaration of Caracas, which still retain full force, and suggested the strengthening and development of a model of communitarian care. Within this framework was the recommendation for prompting human resource development processes in mental health based on the communitarian model of services and with an emphasis on human rights. Also discussed was the important role that patients and relatives of people with mental disorders can play in the community in defending the cause and modifying attitudes toward mental disease.
In the end it was considered opportune to appeal to the Governments, Non-Governmental Organizations, and International Agencies for their support of the development of countries’ mental health programs.